Ranking the New York Rangers' Best Options at the Trade Deadline
This year’s trade deadline is dramatically different from years past. The shortened season has given teams less room for error. One losing streak or winning streak can be the difference between winning the division or missing the playoffs.
Parity is clearly visible in the NHL. Across the league, only five teams are more than four points out of a playoff spot. With so many teams still in the playoff hunt, it’s hard to determine who’ll be buying or selling at the deadline. Over the few remaining games, wins and losses will certainly be the determining factor as to who becomes available and who actually moves.
For the Rangers, their biggest needs—aside from improved play from their current roster—are
- A gritty winger to help on the forecheck and bang along the boards.
- A third/fourth-line center, either to push Boyle down to the fourth line or to complement him in a defensive/shutdown role.
- Additional depth on the blue line.
Here are some of the players the Rangers should be considering, if available.
Bargain Bin: Mike Komisarek, John-Michael Liles, Ryan Whitney
Personae non gratae in their respective organizations, all three of these blueliners have found themselves watching the game from the pressbox for extended stretches or, worse, playing with their AHL affiliates.
While they may not be impressive and may be overpriced, they’re all better than some of the regular players suiting up for defense with the Rangers. None of these three would a first choice for Sather, but they should come at a price that’s easily paid without impact to the current roster. While not key acquisitions, they’re worth consideration for depth on the blue line.
Komisarek, D, Toronto - 4 games played, 0 goals, 0 assists, 0 points, +2, 2 PIM
Liles, D, Toronto - 20 games played, 1 goal, 6 assists, 7 points, +1, 4 PIM
Whitney, D, Edmonton - 23 games played, 3 goals, 7 assists, 10 points, -11, 16 PIM
7. R.J. Umberger
Glen Sather seems like the kind of guy who holds a grudge. His past dealings with R.J. Umberger may exclude the player from consideration on this list, but he may be worth a shot. The Rangers acquired Umberger back in 2004 but were unable (or unwilling) to sign him to a contract; he left as an unrestricted free agent and signed with the Philadelphia Flyers.
Umberger has surpassed 20 goals and 20 assists in each of his past four seasons in Columbus. He might not be the most physically imposing player, but he can win tough battles along the boards and play with more of an edge than the Rangers' forwards usually bring to the rink
The catch? He’s signed through 2017 to a contract that will pay him $4.6M per year. He’s an upgrade, but the dollars are just too high for the role he’d play. Unless, of course, the Rangers consider using their one remaining compliance buyout on such a player acquired at the deadline.
Umberger, LW, Columbus - 32 games played, 6 goals, 8 assists, 14 points, +1, 12 PIM
6 and 5. Robyn Regehr, Jordan Leopold
These two pending unrestricted free agents in Buffalo will draw attention at the deadline. They’re both in the final years of deals paying them $4 million and $3 million, respectively.
Leopold has one goal and five assists in a season where he’s been limited to just 22 games due to an upper-body injury.
Regehr brings a more physical presence to the lineup. With just one assist all season, the Rangers wouldn’t be expecting him to put up points, just to help stop the other team from scoring. Regehr does have a no-trade clause, but it’s inconceivable to think he wouldn’t agree to a deal that would give him a shot at the playoffs.
Both Regehr and Leopold would be improvements to the current defensive corps in New York. The Sabres should expect a good return, though, as the two should draw interest from a number of playoff-bound teams.
Regehr, D, Buffalo - 25 games played, 0 goals, 1 assist, 1 point, -2, 19 PIM
Leopold, D, Buffalo - 22 games played, 1 goal, 5 assists, 6 points, -7, 12 PIM
4. Steve Ott
How many players will the Sabres look to part with, and at what price? If the gritty centerman is offered up at a fair price, he’d be a great acquisition for the Rangers’ third line.
Of course, that’s provided John Tortorella is actually willing to roll three lines on a regular basis. If so, Ott can be counted on to play a physical, shutdown game. In defensive situations, especially those late in games, the option of having both Boyle and Ott on the ice for faceoffs and defensive play would be a great option.
He has one year left on his contract, as well as a no-trade clause, so the details could get sticky, but there’s no question that the Rangers could certainly use what Ott brings to the lineup.
Ott, C, Buffalo - 32 games played, 5 goals, 12 assists, 17 points, +4, 59 PIM
3. Jay Bouwmeester
It would be absolutely shocking if Jay Bouwmeester finished the year in Calgary. While still a solid blueliner, he’s far from what you’d expect from a defenseman making over $6.6M a year, with one year remaining on his contract. Bouwmeester should finally break his career-long streak of having never seen action in an NHL playoff game; it’s just a matter of where he ends up.
The Rangers desperately need to fortify their defense. With Marc Staal still shelved, the Blueshirts are looking at a bottom blue-line pairing of Hamrlik and Eminger. While Anton Stralman has played well, he’s not a legitimate top-four defenseman. Bouwmeester would be a big upgrade for the Rangers, provided they don’t give up much going the other way. His five power-play points are more than any Rangers’ defenseman has put up with the man advantage, and his six goals and nine assists would lead all Blueshirts blueliners in scoring. He may even be the spark the Rangers’ power play needs to start producing.
Bouwmeester, D, Calgary - 30 games played, 6 goals, 9 assists, 15 points, -8, 14 PIM
2. Ryane Clowe
Clowe has had, to put it mildly, an off year. He has yet to score a goal and has only nine points on the season. His lack of production is especially surprising for a player who’s averaged more than 20 goals and 30 assists per season over the past four years. While his statistical contributions haven’t been significant, he’s still bringing the physical aspects to his play on the ice. Clowe is second on the Sharks in hits, and his 72 penalty minutes lead the team.
A change in scenery could do him good. Some physical play along the boards could help the Rangers’ sputtering offense. Clowe’s presence may help the Rangers reestablish the hard-working forecheck that made them so tough to play against last season. Much like Morrow will do in Pittsburgh, Clowe would be able to help make room for some of the other offensive talents in the lineup.
At the right price, Clowe could be the best trade-deadline acquisition for the Rangers. Facing unrestricted free agency after the season, Clowe would be a true rental player—one looking to prove himself and earn his next contract after a poor regular-season showing.
Clowe, LW, San Jose - 25 games played, 0 goals, 9 assists, 9 points, -7, 72 PIM
1. Dan Boyle
While the Sharks are still very much in the playoff hunt, they may consider moving the talented defenseman.
Boyle has one year remaining on his $6.7 million-per-season contract. That price may scare off quite a few teams including the Rangers, who would have a challenging time fitting him into the lineup next season—especially with Stepan, Hagelin and McDonagh all becoming restricted free agents at the season’s end.
Still, if he’s available, the Rangers will be kicking the tires on the 36-year-old blueliner.
Boyle, D, San Jose - 29 games played, 5 goals, 9 assists, 14 points, -4, 18 PIM